Do your eyes deceive you? As if you needed to ask...

Jeremy Paxman was pretending to talk to a man who was no longer there

I DIDN'T see the Carlton TV programme about drug money, The Connection, which The Guardian claimed was full of trickery and fakery. Come to that, I didn't see The Guardian claims that the programme was rigged, either, but I did see a copy of Broadcast, the weekly magazine about TV and radio, which reported the whole affair in some alarm. Assuming the piece in Broadcast was not a leg-pull, it seems that the Carlton award-winning documentary was pulling the wool over our eyes, and the drug-money-laundering activities were sort of invented for the report.

That was bad enough.

What The Guardian and Broadcast didn't report was something worse, that a recent edition of Newsnight was also rigged.

There was a sequence in which Jeremy Paxman was asking questions of a well known politician, and the politician was giving his well known answers. As the politician talked, the camera cut to Paxman for his reactions, and he was seen nodding slightly, as if he was interested either in what the man was saying, or in the next question he was going to put to him.

I can now reveal that Paxman was not, while seen nodding, in fact listening to the politician at all.

Indeed, the politician was not there at all.

The politician had had to leave in a hurry after the interview, and so the reaction shots had to be done while Paxman was all alone. I can also reveal that Paxman had to ask some of the questions again long after the politician had given the answers and disappeared, and was therefore pretending to talk to a man who was not there.

The BBC is well aware that this kind of deception takes place on a regular basis, and refuses to do anything about it.

I can further reveal that Jeremy Paxman is not the only television performer guilty of this sort of deception. Everyone else does it as well. Almost everyone you see on TV nodding or smiling or frowning in agreement and disagreement is doing it for the camera, long after the moment which provoked the reaction has passed.

Almost everything that happens on television doesn't really happen. It has to be rehearsed, rearranged, repeated, reassembled or dismantled, so that it works. Contests on game shows say the spontaneous things they have planned beforehand. Canned laughter is fed in, just in case the audience doesn't laugh loud enough. Even when a documentary is telling the truth, it has to fix things to make them seem as true as they are.

I can reveal that the cinema is no less guilty than television. When the hero falls from the train, or jumps on to the passing horse, it is very often not the star whom we are watching, but a stunt man.

Indeed, there was a film some years back in which David Bowie and Marlene Dietrich both featured. The film had several scenes in which Dietrich and Bowie were alone together, deep in talk. Bowie was later asked what he had made of the ageing, legendary Dietrich, and he revealed that he had never met her. Their scenes together were not shot in two-shot; the camera always cut from the face of one to the face of the other, and each person had played his or her part at a different time and in a different country.

Of course, theatre-goers would claim that at least the stage is for real. What you see is what you get. Everything happens as it happens. But this is not true either. Nightly, Macbeth dies at the end of the Scottish play. I can now reveal that he does not die at all, but only pretends to die - indeed, even more disgracefully, he comes back again the following night and the night after that, to die all over again.

Yet as soon as the curtain falls, the supposedly dead Macbeth jumps up and is as alive as ever.

I can also reveal that books are no more to be trusted. A travel writer once told me that half the conversations he put into his travel books were not remembered, but made up to resemble the sort of conversations he did have on the road. Trouble was, he now couldn't remember which half were made up and which were real.

So whom are we to trust?

Which documentary can we assume is really telling the truth about things?

If everything is rigged, can we believe anything?

Should I now reveal that this article is, in fact, totally fabricated from start to finish?

Of course not. But I can at least suggest a solution to the Carlton drug documentary dilemma.

The next time that they have a well shot, well made and well acted documentary which turns out to be based on a complete fiction, don't change the programme. Simply change the category and relabel it as a drama.

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
arts + entsFor a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past